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Streaming Music is Ripping You Off

rwortman

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#61
Pay per stream is what the industry negotiated. To me subscriber share is dumb. If I listen to two songs in a month by two different artists and nothing else they get paid the same as if I streamed all their music non stop. The root problem is that too many people think music should be free or close to free. Young people don’t have music collections (if they do, it is usually 100% stolen) and rely completely on streaming services. The only way this can replace CD sales as a revenue stream is for subscription fees to be higher than the users are willing to pay. So the music industry is upside down. People used to tour to sell recordings. Now the recordings go out to draw people to their concerts. You can argue about the rate of pay, but pay per stream is hardly some sort of conspiracy to cheat anyone.
 

Blake Klondike

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#62
Of course, the solution is to pay the same royalty rates that terrestrial radio is legally required to pay, since people are using streaming services and YT to serve the same function as radio. Artists would then be able to make a living off their music.

As it stands now, for example, YT doesn't pay a cent if your video gets fewer than 300,000 hits in a quarter-- so 299,999 hits, not annually, but per quarter, all of which YT made a profit on, earns the artist zero. Last I checked, their rate was $.17/play. So, 100,000 hits would be enough to fund a record and a national tour, or buy a van. Or pay a mortgage and health insurance for a family. As opposed to $0.00, which buys none of those things, and makes musicians give up out of necessity.

Other streaming services pay much, much worse-- the first cut off of my last record got 75,000 spins on Spotify alone in the first couple months and my pay-out was $1.63. I wouldn't even bother to cross the street for $1.63.

Of course, the giant internet companies are the ones holding the legislative/lobbying hammer here, so there is essentially a zero percent chance that this will change.

Streaming services would be more expensive if they were required to pay fair-use royalties, but the alternative is the current and future situation: plummeting numbers of professional musicians. And let's remember what kind of music amateur musicians make: bad music.
 

rwortman

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#63
I agree with the above with one notable exception. Professional doesn’t always equate to quality. I have heard stunningly good music by amateurs and stunningly bad music by professionals. The person making hamburgers at McDonalds is a professional cook.
 

Sergei

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#64
I am paying for a service and receiving the service. I am not being ripped off. If the creators of the music are being ripped off, that's between them and the streaming service and/or record company. The main premise of the article is wrong. Once I give my monthly fee to Tidal, it's not my money any more so I have no claim on how Tidal spends it. As long as they allow me access to their library during that month, the contract between me and them is fulfilled. If you want to have a streaming service that has a different pay structure, start one. If you have that big a moral problem with a streaming service, don't subscribe. If you really want more money to go to the artists you like, go to their concerts and buy music from them on their web pages.
Anecdotally - and I've seen several written accounts of that, in addition to my own experiences - the vast majority of people are genuinely surprised when they learn about the current royalties distribution scheme. From the outside, the system looks free-market-fair. On the inside, the payoffs are structured similarly to the payoffs to TV shows creators as they were in the old days of monopolistic cable companies. Remember these days? 1,000 channels but nothing new worthy of watching, unless you enjoy junk of course.

Ripoff requires three parts: deception, benefit to perpetrator, and harm to customer. We already discussed the deception and benefits parts. But what is the harm? This is less obvious, yet the analogy with the old days monopolistic cable companies helps. In old days, a high-quality show widely popular with sci-fi fans could be nevertheless ruthlessly canceled if it wasn't popular enough with the mainstream audience.

Perhaps the best example is Firefly, which was cut mid-season, yet at some point became the most watched show on Netflix. Yet another example is Caprica, which I considered the best ever Sci-Fi TV show at the time it was canceled. And yet another example is Star Trek, which wasn't canceled outright, yet was put on such a tight budget that it started resembling a badly filmed high school theater production.

Back then, I wrote an open letter to the TV network executives, saying, among other things, that I won't pay them a cent unless they switch to pay-per-view model for Sci-Fi shows, so that my favorite shows could be sustained. I also told them that I'd willing to pay an order of magnitude more per episode for particular shows. And I haven't paid them, for almost a decade. I guess I wasn't alone.

Fast forward to the era of pay-per-view TV shows, and pay-per-month-without-a-package Internet TV channels. Sci-Fi genre has been reinvigorated. The Expanse has been amazing! The new Star Trek feels like a completely different show, and is also amazing. The audience has much more power to influence the quality of the shows. Competition for the viewers attention, and thus money, among show creators much intensified. The old days of "nothing to watch" are gone. "No time to watch" became a significantly bigger problem of course :)

What's also telling, in the old days a cancelation of a great yet not popular with general audience Sci-Fi show would usually leave the magically assembled crew no place to go. The careers of Firefly and Caprica star leads were shuttered: despite considerable talent and sci-fi audience love, the vast majority of them never achieved a better status elsewhere, and the canceled show remains their best work. There are exceptions of course - Lena Headey and Alan Tudyk come to mind - yet they illustrate the general rule. On the other hand, the phenomenon of "unlikely stars" is much amplified nowadays: in the old days, Peter Dinklage and Maisie Williams could only achieve some recognition, as barely noticeable supporting actors.

Similarly, the music industry is stagnating IMHO, because there is no efficient mechanism of directly boosting a great musician or a band that are not popular enough with the general audience. As a result, Justin Beiber and the like prosper, taking in the bulk of the socialistically aggregated streaming subscription payments, while some ridiculously amazing Prog Rock bands have to rely on touring to barely sustain themselves. San Francisco AES chapter does free play events at local studios sometimes: professionals put on the music they like. Universally, almost all of it is far far from mainstream, yet jaw-dropingly and tear-inducingly gorgeous.
 

rwortman

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#65
OTelevision networks are in the business of producing shows lots of people watch. Critical acclaim doesn’t pay the bills. Favorite shows of mine still get cancelled, restaurants close, musicians stop recording. That’s life. In the old days you had to beg or bribe DJ’s to play your music. Today you can self publish on YouTube. Seems like it’s easier for a new band to get their music out there. If those “ridiculously amazing Prog Rock bands” can’t get their somewhat less amazing fans to buy their CD’s, that’s life. Success in the music business has never been only about talent. Like I said, many of the people that lament the state of the music industry are the same ones not buying the music. Everyone wants the artists to get more of someone else’s money.
 

digicidal

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#66
I don't think it will be too long with this kind of market manipulation before we'll see the same thing that's happened with video. Initially the big studios scoffed, then got angry, then scared... and now they're trying to catch up. Their rigid commitment to the "old way" forced the streaming services to become studios - because despite what the big studios like to believe... there's nothing magical about filming and producing a movie... it just has a very high cost of admission. Now you can easily argue that this emerging paradigm won't be much better for artists, and could potentially end up creating a different monopoly on content - but I think there are a vast number of artists who would be more than willing to exchange a remote chance for massive wealth for a guaranteed paycheck that enables them to chase their dreams full time. I guess only time will tell.

Full disclosure: I enjoyed watching Stranger Things and Dark more than any shows in the past decade on the regular networks.
 

Sergei

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#67
Everyone wants the artists to get more of someone else’s money.
I want the artists to get more of my money. I canceled my Spotify and Tidal subscriptions, letting these companies know that I'll rejoin once they make their royalties distribution arrangements market-fair. Kept Deezer, because they are already trying to do something about it.
 

Wombat

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#68

JJB70

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#69
The problem for the musical genres I love most seems to be that the back catalogue of existing recordings is so vast, and labels can re-issue classic recordings for peanuts, that it must make it very difficult to make a decent return on new recordings. If the market embraced multi-channel that might change things, but most consumers are happy with regular stereo, and the existing catalogue of classical music which was superbly recorded in stereo (and in some cases also quadrophonic or surround) is vast. However, in some ways if music returns to live performance and musicians being closer to their fans and with those fans being able to seek out recordings in preference to the age of the mega star conductor cranking out recordings by the dozen is that necessarily a bad thing?
 

RayDunzl

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#70
"In a wild turn of events, Death Row Records is now owned by Hasbro, the gargantuan toy and board game company that is behind My Little Pony, Furby, Monopoly, G. I. Joe, and many more classic children’s enterprises. Death Row Records is, of course, the West Coast rap label that was founded in 1991 and put out major releases from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac."

https://www.stereogum.com/2055925/death-row-records-hasbro-ownership/news/
 

bequietjk

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#71
Most if not all of my purchases in the past years have been from discoveries made because of Spotify or Pandora. Many artists are able to release their music through these outlets and gain exposure. This would often cause the listener to go looking for a physical CD/Vinyl copy of the artist' music or even single songs, hopefully able to be downloadable and purchasable assuming the artists have their own website or some sort of place that we can buy their music and not just stream.
 

digicidal

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#74
When there is music I like from Spotify and want to download it the first thing I'll do is search for a place to buy it.
That was one of the things I found so ironic during the initial RIAA "litigageddon" against Napster and individuals. When it first came out, I was on it like a madman... downloading anything I could find. Don't have a single file from those days - the quality was always horrible... but it was good enough to know whether I liked it or not. If I did, I immediately went out and purchased it (and often other CDs in their catalog) - if not I just deleted the files. I'd have to guess I spent at least $1500 on CDs I would have likely never known of were it not for that "horrible den of pirates".

I kept wondering to myself whether they were intentionally ignoring increases in sales that coincided with the site's popularity, while exaggerating the losses. I don't have to wonder about it any longer obviously. :rolleyes: Naturally, I'm not advocating for piracy and loss of copyright control for content creators on the whole... however, in the grand scheme of things I wonder how many artists got anything from the settlements? At least with the streaming services now there's an audit trail and a developing attempt at better compensation from some.

On a totally unrelated note, although I still listen to the first 6 albums on occasion, the Metallica involvement has absolutely nothing to do with my frequent fantasies about "accidentally" backing my car over Lars repeatedly. It's just a coincidence, I swear!
 

Blake Klondike

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#79
Ended up writing a lot on this topic, so apologies for length.

As a musician and teacher, I tell everyone who asks how to support music/why there is "no good new music":

1. Go see music by local/regional/national bands in small local venues at least once per week. (These shows are often $15 or less)
2. Buy the merchandise and music from the bands you like
3. Bring five people with you next time they come through.
4. Find out about all their other projects, acts they are associated with, etc.

Folks have to have the same attitude about "supporting local musicians" that they have about "supporting local business". If you want to have new music to listen to, you have to find a way to get your money directly in the pockets of the artists you like, and this means circumventing streaming services. If fifty of us went out to see a local group at a club in a small city and all bought a CD, a t-shirt and a poster, the following would occur:

1. $600 in CD sales
2. $750 in t-shirt sales
3. $250 in poster sales.

That's $1600 in merch.

Local/regional acts usually get paid 50% of ticket sales, plus a percentage of the booze and food sales. That's roughly $750.

So the band we all went to see earned $2350 that night.

And what's more, if we all bring five people with us next time, the band can say that they drew 50 fans the first time they came through, and 250 the next time. And that gets you into bigger venues, with guaranteed pay, rather than a cut of the door. If you can expand that regionally, this is how acts can sell out 1000 seat theaters and start to command a $10,000 guarantee from $35 ticket sales, etc.

You can make a living from that if you can do it in a bunch of markets, because the rule is you only play a city once per six months to avoid saturation.

That's how it is supposed to work-- that is how musicians can still make money and afford to continue making records for us to buy very well-designed equipment to play them on.

The problem is that it is almost impossible. Small venues are closing all over the country because nobody goes out to see live acts anymore. 95% of the acts I have ever known had to struggle to bring in 15 people to a gig like the one I described above. (Which realistically paid them probably $25-75 for the whole band-- if you don't draw, you don't get paid and you don't get rebooked) And they only accomplished 15 by begging their friends to come. Everyone is at home watching Netflix.

So if the question is fair treatment for musicians and an ecosystem that supports the production of quality stuff, folks have to pay musicians directly. The streaming services are never going to do it, because they would be giving away money they can keep for themselves.

David Lowery, from Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven is great on this, as are Van Dyke Parks, David Byrne and Trent Reznor-- each has written great articles about it.

The irony of this conversation happening on a forum like ASR is that we probably all the exception to this trend-- we likely all spend a lot of money on music every year, and we are definitely always on the look-out for new acts.

These are fascinating conversations though-- given that everybody here is a serious music listener by definition, it is always interesting to hear what folks have to say.
 
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